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West African Nations Urge U.S. to Drop Cotton Subsidies

Cotton 4 says changes needed to revive Doha talks.

GENEVA — Faced with collapsing prices and sharp falls in production, poor West African cotton-exporting nations have renewed their demands for the U.S. and other rich nations to scrap trade-distorting subsidies in the sector.

The ambassador of Burkina Faso, Prosper Vokouma, speaking on behalf of the Cotton 4 nations in the troubled global Doha trade talks, said last week, “We do not want a last-minute solution imposed on us.”

Vokouma, talking on the sidelines of a cotton forum here Thursday, said the four nations are determined “to go on to the bitter end,” a clear signal to the U.S. and the European Union that there would be no final Doha deal unless the Africans’ concerns are met.

The African Cotton 4 — Burkina Faso, Benin, Mali and Chad — have presented a plan that would require the U.S. to slash its cotton subsidies by 82 percent, a demand viewed as unacceptable by the U.S. The U.S. has yet to put forward a counterproposal, even after the Cotton 4 presented five scenarios in confidential talks in November in a bid to broker a deal.

François Traore, president of the Association of African Cotton Producers, said African growers are producing around 1 million tons, a drop from around 2 million before the collapse in prices. He said cotton prices now were about $1.06 to $1.10 a kilo, sharply down from the highs of around $1.54 in the summer.

Traore said the increase in global cotton stocks to around 10 million tons due to the fall in production and exports by major textile-producing nations because of sharp declines in consumption has aggravated the situation. But he also put a lot of the blame on cotton subsidies.

“It is subsidies that create overproduction” and result in situations where supply exceeds demand. “That’s a reality,” he said.